St Maarten/St Martin
24 August 2014 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: It got into the upper 80s shortly after the last newsletter came out. Admittedly, it was that warm here in Salem for a couple days. Lately it has been in the low 80s in the morning and reaching the mid to high 80s in the afternoon. The tradewinds have been rather steady, coming in at 15 to 20 mph from the east. The coming week could be rainy for the first six days, partly cloudy turning to clear next four days. It's summer weather, hotter with more rain.

The box shows the current local conditions and here's the detailed forecast from Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:52 PM providing 13 hours and 10 minutes of sunshine. We've passed the summer solstice and the days are getting shorter. In 2014 the full moons will be 8 Sep, 8 Oct, 6 Nov, and 6 Dec.

This sunset pano was taken from the Caribbean balcony of our condo in early March.

Hurricane Predictions

I'm going to keep the hurricane predictions from Colorado State University in the newsletter and compare them to actuality. They predicted only 9 named storms (compared to 12 in the average year from 1981 to 2010), 35 named storm days (60.1), 3 hurricanes (6.5), 12 hurricane days (21.3), one major hurricane (2.0), and 2 major hurricane days (3.9).

We've already had one hurricane: Arthur, a minor happening making no major landfall in the Caribbean or US. Since the last newsletter Hurricane Bertha, a category 1 storm, came from Africa crossed over Martinique to the south and circled over the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. It also dropped some rain in the Bahamas before running parallel with the US east coast. It continued westward eventually causing a lot of flooding in the United Kingdom.

SXM-Beaches: At this time of year, many restaurants close. September is a perfect month for not being on SXM. It is the wettest month with the lowest percentage of sunshine and the highest water temperature. October just beats September for humidity and seems worse because the winds are lowest in October and November. September is generally considered the worst month for hurricanes. Thus, many restaurants close for the month. One place that always has some restaurants open is Orient Beach. These photos were taken from Local Rums & Spices at the top of Hope Hill, next to Paradise View Restaurant. On the left is the view looking straight out over the southern end of Orient to the island of Green Cay. Of the smaller beach bars and BBQ shacks located here, we like Orange Fever and Pedro's. The northern end of the beach has the larger full service restaurants. For really good dining in this area we like Kakao Beach. They feature dinng with your feet and the sand and have a large menu including salads, interesting plates, pizzas, and more. Further to the north is Palm Beach Restaurant. It's one of the newest facilities although the owners are longtime restaurateurs. Looking to the south, the center photo shows Galion Beach in the foreground and St Barts in the distance. Tropical Wave rents all manner of watersport equipment and serves no frills, but good, lunches on a beautiful beach. On the right are the sugar birds crowding the feeder at Bernie's rum shop and animal rescue facility. She has pretty good prices on local rums and spices and some of the proceeds support numerous cats and dogs. Next door Paradise View serves up some interesting food. These spectacular views are included at no cost.

Beach reading: Death by Laughter by Harry Bliss - about $15 - From Amazon: Welcome to the world of Harry Bliss, a New York Times bestselling cartoonist whose gag cartoons look at the world in a fresh, twisted, and unique way. Each panel is a sharp and smart look at the paradoxes of life, ranging from lust and love to misfortune and bitterness. Bliss's cartoons expose truths so human, so real, they're timeless. However, time is running out in Death by Laughter, a collection of cartoons about death, fatality, and "the examined life" that Socrates referred to (only his gags weren't illustrated or, frankly, all that funny). Sheer Bliss."

Harry Bliss is the New York Times bestselling artist of Diary of a Fly, Diary of a Spider, and Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin; A Fine, Fine School by Sharon Creech; and Which Would You Rather Be? by William Steig. He is also an award-winning cartoonist and a cover artist for The New Yorker. He was a Sendak Fellow, spending about a month here in Salem, NY at a nearby farm that used to belong to Maurice. He and his fellow Fellow, Nora Krug, came over for dinner one evening. He left us a copy of this collection.

ginger Sapphire Beach Club: We are not in our condo (Unit 255) at this time. The A/C works, the elevators work (although one has had problems), beach towels are available, the common areas are clean, and the pool is lovely. The condo will is available now at rates ranging from $700 to $1000 per week over the low season. You'll get a 10% discount from Unity Car Rental, one of the longest running and most trusted agencies on the island, and several more coupons as well. Check the calendar on our website for available dates.

To the right is a shot across our Caribbean balcony, over the pool and villas, and about 25 miles across the Caribbean to Saba. It was so clear that the houses on Saba are visible in the enlarged version.

A visitor in early April said:

The vacation was GREAT. Your suite is very nice, the plants, books and cd's made it home-like. We especially liked tooling around the Island listening to Dexter Gordon and Miles Davis on the cd player in Unity's car; which was by the way, a great deal. He upgraded us one level and charged us low season rates. The Pub Crawl was a success. Neil has a knack of getting a group to interact and have fun and we always go out with him at least once. Select Wine Cellar was a highlight. Sylvain steered us to some bottles that were very good. All in all it was a great vacation. Thanks for the coupons they made our stay even better than usual.

Best regards,
Nick & Sharon

For those of you who wish to sell or rent their week or unit, we have opened up the Sapphire Beach Club website for that purpose. We charge $25 per year. If you wish to rent or sell your unit, send us some text (and $25 to esk@sxm-info.com via Paypal). If you wish to rent or buy a unit without high middleman fees, check out the website. At present, there are several sales and/or rentals available directly from owners. Given a 25 to 35% standard rental commission, there should be some bargains in eliminating the middleman and dealing direct.

SXM-Hotels: Big news on the timeshare front as the sale of Pelican at auction was declared null and void on the same day that Caravanserai was auctioned off for $14 million (left). Both of these actions are something of a victory for individual timeshare owners. In the first case, now that the fake auction has been annulled, it is hoped that the new "owner" will negotiate with the timeshare owners in better, if not good, faith.

Manek, as the owner of Caravanserai, had sold various parts of the property to sham corporations leading to two auctions with no bidders, one at $20 million reserve and a second at $16 million. The court recently ruled in favor of the bank forcing the auctions, setting aside the self-dealing sham transactions and the bank agreed to a $12 million reserve price. Two bidders drove the price to $14 million, giving the bank a $3 million dollar haircut on its $17 million dollar loan plus accrued interest. The buyer has been variously identified, but can't be any worse than the previous joker.

SXM-Activities: Billy Bones Boatcharters just signed up as a client on the activities page. They do group day charters to Tintamarre and/or Créole Rock leaving from Skipjack's in Simpson Bay. That's pretty convenient for the many tourists in that area. That's Capn Balazs on the right. Coconut Reef also does charters, snorkel trips, and more (left).

The Palm D'Or Nightclub above Palm Beach Restaurant continued with parties on every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday starting at 11PM (Doors open at 10PM). Every Sunday features an AFTER BEACH PARTY with dj Rudy, essentially a continuation of the Palm Beach Restaurant Party. Fridays are Caribbean night with dj Dutty Fresh and Saturdays are ladies night featuring free margaritas for the ladies.

Construction: Construction has slowed on the island, so this is about destruction, which will require more construction in the near future. The Herald says that the terrace on building next to Love Hotel has collapsed damaging the bar at Love Hotel. No one was hurt and it appears that the terrace construction had been done without benefit of building permit or inspections. Moreover, the building had been declared "dangerous" according by the St Martin government. Love Hotel had written to the government about the problems and had received the swift action that exists throughout the Caribbean.

Groceries: We've had quite a bit of rain recently and warm weather, perfect conditions for mushrooms. I went out recently and picked all these red, yellow, and black chanterelles in about a half hour. They were cleaned and cooked within another half hour and gone in the next half hour, along with a nice glass of Burgundy. The bottom right of the plate has a leccinum that Martha found and the top left is a tasty and crunchy ciabatta roll. I could not identify the strange mushroom in the foreground and did not eat it.

On the island Simply generally has the best supply of fresh mushrooms, sometimes including the black and yellow chanterelles.

We use Mushrooms of North America by Roger Phillips as a field guide - lovely color photos and a beginner's key to help you make positive identifications. You would also be wise to take a class or have a friend take you foraging.

Crime: Just after the last newsletter went out, the Herald reported that a gang of nine scooter operators avoided a road control checkpoint. The officers called for backup and the perps were apprehended via a road block near PJIA Airport. Surprise! Surprise! The scooters were seized as not one of them could produce all three required papers: a valid driver's licence, valid insurance, and paid road tax.

The Herald has reported that another armed bank robbery occurred in Cole Bay since the last newsletter went out. The Herald also had some good news: the police stopped a car and smelled marijuana in Mullet Bay. This got them to search the car, and rather than finding marijuana, they found a gun. Long story short, one of the three guys in the car was the third guy in the Dazzling Gems robbery in Pburg.

And the owner of Robbie's Lottery, Robbie dos Santos, has been arrested in connection with the murder of a politician in Curaçao. Two days later, he was freed for lack of proof.

Traffic: Another major accident occurred on the hill coming into Cole Bay from Pburg. It was the usual mechanical failure, but this time the driver of the truck towing an excavator on a trailer headed off the road and into the bush on the right. The excavator fell off the trailer and blocked the road for hours. Amazingly, no one was hurt and only one car was damaged as the truck knocked a tree into that car.

green logo Nature: On the right is Martha's beautiful, but very smelly, tropical plant. The smell attracts flies who will assist in pollination.

Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our hosting company servers are about 130% wind-powered.

Small Island story: The BIG news this cycle is that the Social Reform Party got the color blue for the upcoming elections. The color was also desired by the United St Maarten Party who then choose cyan. When we got married on the island, a long time ago, we had to have the ceremony at the official Wedding Hall next to the dump because Judge Matthews was deeply involved in the choosing of colors and certification of voting lists for the election. He did not have enough time to come to the spot of our choosing. Even with this concession, he was about an hour late for the ceremony. This is BIG news as there was a follow-up story a few days later.


As you can request five prizes on one entry form, you could win a bargain on lodging, car rental, entertainment, dinner, and a gym to work it off! That would be five prizes to one person.

Current Contest: now to 12 October

Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two
Marci's Mega Gym - Two for One week with a shake
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two
Escargot Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two
Pizza Galley - $25 off on a dinner for two

Read our rules, visit the websites of these sponsors, find their contest codes, and enter them on our entry form.

One of the rules is that you should enter each contest only once. You can enter five of the drawings on one entry. Thus, you could win a rather nice vacation at a considerable savings by combining accommodations with dinners and activities. I really check and while a Sulay entered 33 times for one contest, instead of increasing her chance of winning, she decreased it to zero as I deleted all of them. She did account for about a third of the entries for that contest.

Here's some comments from a past winner:

We met with Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar, enjoyed the tasting, and opted for the Belin Champange for the free bottle. It was very good. I will try and find this at home to drink again. He was a very nice host. We also went to Peg Leg Pub for the steak dinner. We had the place to ourselves with two other couples. The $50 certificate kept the cost under $100 after wine, main course, and appetizers. I enjoyed entering the contest and look forward to future entries. Over 16 days we only had only one 4 minute rain shower; otherwise the weather was beautiful. We tried the Hideaway Restaurant at La Vista. It was very good as were the other places we dined.

Future Contests:
12 October to 7 December
same cast of characters as current contest



In mid-July the Euro was at 1.361 and today it is at 1.325, down 2.6 percent in a fairly interesting six weeks, financially speaking.

Piazza Pascal and La Villa, in Grand Case are offering 1 to 1 for cash. Paradise View Restaurant above Orient Beach is offering 1.2 to 1. Nearby Ti Bouchon offers 1 to 1 also. Auberge Gourmande and Palm Beach Restaurant are doing 1.25 to 1. Almost all other restaurants on the French side that we have visited have offered us a better rate than we would get from our credit card or a bank. There is no doubt that they want your business.

You should not be paying a currency transaction charge as there are many credit cards that don't have this onerous charge. My United Mileage Plus Explorer/Chase card no longer charges it and gets my first bag checked free for all United tickets purchased on the card. My Capital One Signature Visa Venture card gets a good exchange rate with no fee. The frequent flier benefits can be used on any airline and there are no blackouts. Basically you get to spend 1 cent on air travel for every dollar you charge to your card. However, we can usually get a round trip from Albany to SXM for 35,000 miles on United. They would sell me that ticket for about $700. Do the math and you see you would have to spend $70,000 on Cap One to get enough "miles" to buy the ticket. Consequently, we rarely use the Cap One card. As there is no yearly charge, it is a handy spare card. We found it best to take the rewards in merchandise. We picked up an 18 bottle wine refrigerator with half of our points from a previous year, but we couldn't even fly one of us to SXM. Recently, they essentially gave us 1% cash back, but it could only be applied to travel expenses charged on the card which makes it essentially the same as getting a ticket through their system. Moreover, spending several thousand dollars at restaurants in Burgundy and Paris did not qualify as traveling expenses and neither did the gite rental in Beaune nor the apartment rental in Paris.

Cap One just offered Martha a Quicksilver Visa Signature Card that gives us 1.5% back - no fooling around with miles. They do not charge an exchange fee on foreign transactions and they do provide rental car insurance. This will be our primary card as airline miles are not as valuable or as easy to use as they used to be.

We always notify our card companies of our travel. Chase actually accepts this info on-line, making it much easier.

There are discussions on Credit card Forum and Daily Markets that may help you decide what card is best for you.


Bistro Nu
Recently there was a thread on TTOL concerning Bistro Nu. It basically said the restaurant has been sold again and Jean Claude, the longtime waiter, retired. The restaurant was closed for a week of renovations and has now reopened serving lunch (12:00-2:00) and dinner (7:30-9:30) Monday through Friday. The menu is still on the chalk board, although a bit shorter and the wine list may have been improved. I say "may" because it is unclear to me what improved means in this context. In my world, taking the entire wine list and merely dropping prices by 10% would be an improvement. Replacing all village wines with premier cru vineyard wines would result in a better tasting wine list at a considerable cost. Is that an improvement? But, I digress.

Wendy K visited in late February last high season: "We arrived a little after 1:00, and were able to park across the street, which was good, considering the drizzle. Jean Claude was explaining the menu to a patron in a very full restaurant. We'd likely have been turned away, had Jean Claude not been there and recognized us. We waited with a glass of wine, at the bar for about 15 minutes for a table to open up, and placed our order while we were waiting.

There is only a blackboard menu now, and it's much the same as it used to be [with the original team that we remember from mid 90s!], with so many traditional French country type dishes. We shared a salade de lambi appetizer (conch salad, 9€). Tony had Langue de beouf (beef tongue, 14€), which was in a casserole with a delicious broth, and served with mashed potatoes. I had ris de veaux champignons, (veal sweetbreads with mushrooms 17€); again served in a casserole with mashed potatoes. We drank a bottle of the house Bordeaux, lightly chilled. I didn't check the bill, but the conversion to dollars came to $62. Our first glasses of wine were comped, so the bottle must've been pretty cheap!"

Menu board

2014 Restaurant Annual Vacations Dates
Antoine Restaurant Closed on Saturdays until 25 October
Auberge Gourmande 1 Sep to 14 Oct
Daniel's by the Sea We do not close ever
Open Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner year round
L'Escapade Restaurant No closing, open every night
Hideaway Restaurant The entire month of September
Mr Busby's Beach Bar We do not close ever
Open Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner year round
Il Nettuno 1 September until 15 October
Piazza Pascal The month of September
Pizza Galley Aug. 9 and re-opening mid October
Skipjack's 1-22 Sep
Sol é Luna Restaurant 15 June to 24 July
Le Tastevin 15 August to 3 October
Temptation Restaurant Open all summer
Ti Bouchon 9 June until 6 October
La Villa Closed on Wednesday

News and Changes:
We frequently post some dining photos to Facebook. Less frequently we post activities and other things related to SXM or food. If you're interested, I trust you know what to do.

If you are looking to purchase gift certificates for island restaurants, check out Antoine Restaurant, Piazza Pascal, and L'Escargot Restaurant. Treat your friends at your favorite restaurant!

Here is the current list of the ARCHA members contributing to the security and clean-up of Grand Case. They would appreciate your continued support of their efforts. The sticker is displayed at businesses that participating in this much-needed endeavor.

Hotels and Residences:
Grand Case Beach Club
Le Petit Hotel
Bleu Emeraude
Catalina 4
Hevea Hotel
Auberge Gourmande
Bistrot Caraïbes
Il Nettuno Restaurant
Le Tastevin
Piazza Pascal
Le Pressoir
Calmos Cafe
La Crepe En Rose
L'Effet Mer
Restaurant du Soleil
Ocean 82
Blue Martini
Le Cottage
El Cafecito
Le Ti Provencal
Tijon Perfumery
La Boutique D'anaise
Octopus Diving
Que Du Bonheur
Cotton Club SXM
La Boheme
Sexy Fruits
Tropismes Galerie
Simple Elegance


SXM Privilege Card Coupons: Below are links to the SXM-Info clients who have coupons on their websites. Another approach is the SXM Privilege Card which is now free. It will get you various discounts and/or perks at about 50 restaurants. They also cover hotels (mostly spa treatments at hotels), activities, and more. Most of the restaurant perks are a 10% discount. Visit their website to see where you can get one on the island.

Kakao Beach
Marci's Mega Gym
Endless Summer Beachwear
Oizeau Rare
Pizza Galley
Select Wine Cellar
Tropical Wave

  Our condo: The condo is available for rent $1000 per week or less for the summer. The rental includes about $500 in coupons from several of our website clients including one for 10% off a weekly car rental from Unity Car Rental, one of the longest running and most trusted car rental agencies on the island. Other notable coupons are $50 from Skipjack's restaurant, a tasting and a bottle of wine from Select Wine Cellar, a two for one ride on Celine's famous Lagoon Pub Crawl, and $50 off a daysail on Random Wind. The Christmas and New Year's holiday weeks will be available at $2000 per week and the balance of the high season is available at $1500 per week. As always any days within the next month are available for $100 each. Check the calendar on our website for available dates.

  SXM-Info has chosen SkyMed and MedjetAssist to arrange medical transportation services. We hope you never need it, but when air evacuation flights cost $30,000 or more, it's good to have. Check out both and see which one offers the best prices for your timeframe and traveling group.   Click here to Enroll Now

Kindle: We now have now have two Kindle devices, as Martha just bought a Kindle Fire, She paid about $200 for the device without the 3G option. It connects to WiFi which we have here in NY and at the condo in SXM, and nowadays, at almost all restaurants, hotels, etc. The Fire is essentially a tablet computer with Kindle capabilities and a camera. If you add Amazon Prime to the package you get free 2 day shipping on Amazon, access to a lending library of Kindle books with no expiration, and access to over 40,000 movies via Netflix. The Kindle Paperwhite e-book from Amazon is a great thing to take on a beach vacation. It is glare-free, weighs less than a half pound, and is one-third of an inch thin. It's only $119. Newsletter subscriber Contessa says: "I loaded it up with more books than I needed and it was a very convenient way to read without lugging books to the beach." Paul M wrote: "My wife and I spent a lovely week at La Samanna in late March and I loaded my Kindle with several books and read them on the beach. The Kindle was fabulous. I had a case and was careful not to get in contact with sand, but the device was excellent to use for beach or poolside reading." Wendy K reports that her friend Jerri is quite happy with hers and now Wendy reports she bought her own. If you've already got one, you can get books here. They are cheaper than any other version of the book (except used!)  
Even though Martha has a Kindle and is quite happy with it, she still downloads audio books from our local library to her Zune or Sansa player (iPod knockoffs) and that has been working rather well. Obviously, these are audio books and it's not the same as "reading" the text, but it works quite well and keeps us amused as we drive. I just got a newsletter from a reader who reports that "Regarding downloading - several of my friends have the Nook and they can download books on it from their library in the states...but they do expire after 2 weeks."